Samoa skipper Filipo Levi will make his full Ospreys debut in next Sunday's Magners League game against Connacht at the Liberty Stadium (KO 2.15pm), after arriving in the UK from Japan over the weekend.
LEVI SET FOR OSPREYS DEBUTHe met up with his new team-mates at the Ospreys Llandarcy HQ on Monday afternoon, before enjoying a first run-out in the development match against Newport Gwent Dragons the same evening. Now, he says that he can't wait to play at the Liberty Stadium, when the Ospreys will be looking to maintain their title challenge with a win against their Irish rivals. Levi commented:
"I'm really excited about joining up with the Ospreys and being part of a squad that is packed with quality players. The Ospreys have been successful over the last few years, winning Magners League titles and the EDF Cup against Leicester, and I'm well aware that I'm arriving at a time when we are still heavily in contention on three fronts, so I'm looking forward to the challenge of bringing more success to the region. I've only just arrived here but I've picked up on a fantastic buzz about the place already and I'm really looking forward to running out at the Liberty Stadium for my debut on Sunday."Levi arrives in Ospreylia after spending two seasons playing in Japan for Ricoh Black Rams, and although he says that he's only ever seen the Ospreys in action once, he insists that he knows enough about the players to realise that he is stepping into a squad packed with quality. He said:
"Oddly enough, I watched the recent Heineken Cup match in Perpignan on TV because I know a few of the Perpignan players and I really enjoyed the game, I thought that the Ospreys looked a good side, particularly the way they kept at the task and battled back in the second half. It was a week or two after this that I had a call saying that the Ospreys were interested in signing me, and the prospect of being part of that squad was clearly going to interest me. I've done a bit of research over the last few weeks, and I've spoken at length to Hale T-Pole who was here last season, and he had nothing but good things to say about the Ospreys.
"What I've seen is pretty impressive stuff, the base of the squad is made up of local guys who have come through and had success with the Ospreys and with Wales. I played against Ryan Jones for Otago when he was in New Zealand with the Lions in 2005 and I was really impressed by him. He stood out in that game, scored a try and we caught up after the game for a good yarn, he's a really nice guy. There are so many other players that I'm excited about sharing a dressing room with having seen them competing at international level. What the team has achieved in just five or six years is incredible, and I know that the people involved want to build on that and I'm just pleased to be a part of it.
"There's a good feel about the place, and hopefully, I'll fit in and just help to keep the Ospreys moving forward. I know what I can bring to the team, I'm experienced and I can offer a physical dimension, particularly in the set-piece area, but I also want to learn from my time here and to improve as a player while I'm involved with the Ospreys. I've always been open to new experiences, new cultures and ways of playing rugby, you have to be receptive to the idea that you can always learn and always improve, you can't just stand still and be happy with where you are.
"When I went to Japan I experienced a totally different kind of rugby to New Zealand, it was a much faster game, but I am a better player for the experience. I would expect to be involved in far more physical style of rugby in the northern hemisphere, but I'm looking forward to it, and will hopefully develop new skills during my time here. One key thing for me is that in Japan it's a very short season, with a maximum of 16 games. That's not a lot of rugby, so it will be good get a lot more game time under my belt."
Levi will link up with some familiar faces in the Ospreys camp, having played against Marty Holah regularly and previously been a teammate of Jamie Nutbrown. He added:
"Every time I've played against Marty, he's always been of the opposition players that we knew we had to target. He's strong in the contact area, at pilfering the ball, and he always seemed to have the upper hand. He's a real tough cookie and I'm pleased that come Sunday I'm going to be in the same side as him rather than opposing him. I've known Nutty for a long time as well, going back to our school days we played together for South Island Secondary Schools alongside Richie McCaw, although it's been a while since we've seen each other. I'm also excited about playing with Filo Tiatia, I've always admired his physical style and his leadership abilities so it will be great to play alongside him."
Having left New Zealand to experience Japan, Levi arrives in Wales with his wife, who he says is looking forward to tasting a new culture, even if she's a little concerned about some of the challenges she's facing:
"Like me she has thoroughly enjoyed her time in Japan, but I suppose it's fair to say that she's pleased to be speaking English regularly again after two years. Mind you, I did tell her that when we moved here we would have to learn Welsh which she wasn't too pleased about, so we'll wait and see about that one."